Monday, May 31, 2010

May Fools

April showers are supposed to bring May flowers -- not May fools! I was over it. I didn't want to talk about it. But TNS wants to talk about it, so lets talk about it! In N 29.4, there is a writeup titled "April Fools joke gone wrong." They really shouldn't have written it. Readers of this blog know who they're talking about in the article. Now, since it's in the spotlight, I feel obligated to straighten a few things out.

I openly admit that it was a bad decision on my part with how I wrote the original post and associated fake story. I should've been more clear, limited myself to a single day, and wrote things less convincingly with fake names. Or, I shouldn't have written anything at all. I've already stated that I will never again do an April Fools joke. I didn't get it right last year either, and one of the local people involved this year should've remembered that. I learned my lesson by the second week in April. What TNS has done since then has surpassed my single bad decision with several of their own. I foolishly put out the bait an hour before April 1st, and they bit hard and foolishly ran too far with it.

First of all, I was confused about who wrote the N writeup. Tracy lives in Massachusetts, and therefore had nothing to do with the whole ordeal. How she got assigned to write the story, I have no idea. All I know is that she, or any other TNS person, never contacted me as part of her reporting. I'm also not clear about what the writeup intends to achieve. Everyone already knows that stuff on the internet can't be trusted. Especially so on April Fools. It's written like they are trying to help their credibility, at least for the last two paragraphs. The rest seems to damage it and take NAC down in the process.

Bob has been the only mature, logical person that was directly involved. With everything he said, he was clear and to the point without being condemning. He was willing to look past my single bad decision and focus on the future. Live, learn. With this attitude, NAC is most certainly in good hands! Others can learn a lot from him. Although Bob supposedly "confirmed" the fake story, in talking with me he made it clear that he was very skeptical in calling it plausible. How Tracy put that as "confirmed" in the N article, I have no idea. It makes NAC look bad when really they aren't.

Everyone else has been acting like children so far. Anyone who saw the comments on the Sunday-after post can attest to that -- it's like TNS sent an office-wide memo to attack. If they wanted to rip me a new one, they should've done it privately via phone or email like mature adults. I'd accept it and we'd both move on. Attacking anyone, ever, in a public space is really bad for a public image -- and TNS should've been thankful that I deleted it all instead of leaving it in the public light. I understand that they were upset, and I let them vent about it without responding. It's time to move on, right? Apparently not.

Most adults who fall for a prank, or do something stupid, usually just laugh it off and never talk about it again. They're embarrassed about it. They might remain mad for a while -- but does that really accomplish anything? More to the point, they choose to not talk about it. They don't go around telling new friends "hey, here's a story of how I stupidly fell for a prank." What would their friends think? They might laugh at the story initially, but then slowly back away and look for better friends.

AANR, who has triple the membership, had to know about the fake story also. They did the right thing by presumably flagging it as a hoax, not saying a word about it, and letting it drop off the radar. TNS, on the other hand, has now stood up and told the whole world that they were fooled by a simple joke for a dreadfully long time. What will readers think of this?

The article makes it sound like TNS got a lot of calls, and that a lot of people were spreading the news. It is unlikely for this to be the case. I had no calls from anybody (per the caller ID), no emails, no comments on the post, nothing in usenet, nothing in the nudist social networks I participate in, nothing in the forums I participate in, no mentions on other blogs, no links to the blog post or fake news article (found by google), and searching for "Prairie du Chien nude beach" had no new results. I genuinely thought that nobody had given it a second thought, until Bob called late Sunday to tell me otherwise. Per my site statistics, there were 96 hits from around the world on the fake news story link that month. I'm fairly certain that a majority of those were from everyone involved at TNS during the investigation, several were bots, several were after the story was removed, and several were probably me. All-in-all, it's unlikely that very many people in the Midwest even saw it or knew about it. Well, until now.

I knew the location would be a crappy location for a beach. The water level was too high at that point in time for there to even be a beach. I expect they found a tiny patch of grass that dumped straight into the water. I also checked the weather prior to the post, and knew that Thursday April 1st was the only day warm enough to be naked. (Friday and the weekend ended up around 60 and was rainy.) I played up going on the 1st by saying I was headed that way and that the area skinny-dippers were planning to have a party. (TNS apparently doesn't know of any Prairie-area skinny-dippers, otherwise they should've called them.) Nobody in their right mind would go on a rainy and cold day, and by the end of the weekend I'd have the post flagged as an April Fools joke. (I was out of town that weekend.) Even in the unlikely event that someone made the mad dash to the beach on April 1st, common sense would prevail in that the location sucks and there are absolutely no signs or naked people around. And, most importantly, the fact that it was April 1st should've been a red flag. Tracy's worst-case scenario was extremely unlikely despite how she made it sound.

I still can't believe that anyone fell for it enough to make the trip. I really can't. (Other commenters on the Sunday-after post said they identified it as fake within about "15 minutes".) Nicky admitted that she couldn't find the news story on the Courier Press website. Well, duh! It's an extremely simple site with all the news for that day in a block. The "slight variation" of the URL was "" vs. "". It's not that slight, and there were a lot of changes in the look of the website between my stripped-down copy from mid-March and the real site on April 1st. If the story was real, it would've been on the main page with the other stories for that day, and people would be making a big deal about it.

Even if the webpage design and URL were overlooked, there were other indications that it can't be real. In the research Tracy lists, with TNS and NAC crawling the web, they should've found holes in the story itself:
  • Nude beaches just don't appear like that. Ever. Key West businesses overwhelmingly support a nude beach, but the council has been dragging their feet for over a year now. There has been a ton of publicity around it. Do you really think one could just pop up with very little publicity and no outcry? I even mention the Key West beach in the story as a sort of reminder. In the history of the US, there has been only one city which has legally declared a nude beach. The chances of it happening are very slim.
  • How many political officials do you know who are openly nudist? The chances that the mayor and a council member both go to Mazo Beach and are willing to talk openly about it is extremely rare. Even more rare is that they manage to convince an entire city to go along with the idea, especially since nobody liked one of them.
  • The 9-3 vote for the beach can't be correct. Practically all of the council members are members of churches, schools, police/fire departments, organizations, and have respectable families. There is no way that 9 council members would vote in support of a nude beach and only 3 would be opposed.
  • Nobody in the story opposed the beach. In a fair and balanced story, reporters always seek a comment from someone who is against it. Typically this is very easy to get.
  • There was nothing about the children. Wasn't anyone worried about the children?
  • The time between the vote and having the signs in place was very tight. Putting in the order, processing the order, delivering the order, and getting crews to erect the signs within a maximum of 7 business days seems a bit unrealistic.
  • The long-term resident quoted in the story doesn't exist. If they were a long-term resident, there would be search results about something they've done or whitepage listings.
  • The fake story talked about the "buckskinners" at Rendezvous, and that a nude beach isn't much beyond that. (Ignore the fact that there has been less and less skin over the years at Rendezvous, and no pictures or comments exist online about how much flesh is shown.) It's like saying that going from a swimsuit to fully nude isn't a big step. Naturists agree, but the rest of society most certainly doesn't.
  • Prairie du Chien doesn't even have a designated public textile beach. How could naturists, a vast minority, get a beach of their own?

Fool me once... OK, so they made the trip to the beach and noticed a complete lack of signs, beach, and naked people. Why did the investigation continue? OK, so the police knew nothing of it. If anyone knew the latest news, it would be them! Did they really need to call Pintz at that point? Did they really need to spend time writing comments on my blog? Did they really need to spend time writing an article? The only person whose "valuable time" was wasted, instead of being used to "further the cause of naturism and its positive effects", was Bob. I'm sure Bob would've been researching and working on naturist projects at that time. TNS and the NAC area rep involved, on the other hand, I doubt would've been hard at work promoting naturism on that cold Easter weekend. Once they suspected the story as a fake (like when it wasn't on the news site), they should've stopped all activity since anything more would be a waste. Or, they should've called my girlfriend or I for a final confirmation that it was a hoax. (They have the number -- home phone is with our membership and cell phone was printed in N 28.4) Instead, they kept going and going. The amount of time "wasted" is mostly their own fault.

Like anything, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. This year: In Spain, naked spectators watched a golf tournament per the Huffington Post. The Border Mail in Australia reported on a new nude beach. MIT reported (with video) on a naked physics lecture series with the next one being at 12am April 1st. The Times in London reported on a clothing-optional borough. The Improv Everywhere group even convinced the New York Times that over a thousand people had gone completely bottomless on NY subways and that nobody complained. TNS didn't report on any of these, and they are all much larger media sources.

The fact that TNS and NAC spent so much time trying to prove that a new beach was plausible, and ignoring the obvious signs that it wasn't, is a now-public disgrace thanks entirely to TNS. TNS seems hell-bent in teaching me a lesson with all of this, but it's really them who need the lesson this time around. Tracy's advice is that "common sense and a mature responsibility should indeed be part of the equation to prevent possible unintended consequences." Common sense would've flagged the article as a fake. Mature responsibility wasn't exercised when they attacked me through blog comments, and when they decided to broadcast the event to the world. TNS's recent publication will fuel unintended consequences against them. Readers will question the efficiency and reliability of TNS operations. AANR will point and laugh, and maybe even publish it. This blog post is another unintended consequence -- and will be the only one from me. I'm done talking about it. I'm tired of it. Hopefully everyone else will get over it and move on too. I learned my lesson a month ago -- will TNS learn theirs?

On the bright side, I volunteered to help investigate future April 1st time-frame news stories and claims. It's clear that they need help in that department.

Side-note 1: If the city is working hard to increase tourism, maybe creating a nude beach would be a good idea. It'll cause a lot of publicity, and because of Mazo they know a lot of people would go to it. (This is all assuming they can find a place to make a beach.) The main reason why my fake story was so convincing is because it really is a good idea for any city to consider.

Side-note 2: The entire island is reservable. You know, just in case a "Midwest Naturist Gathering" were to happen. Make sure to bring up tourism dollars and the hundreds that would probably go!


Nudiarist said...

All I can say is if TNS ever falls into the hands of the Horgans, the organization is finished. They truly are clueless when it comes to matters of the Internet and public relations.

I agree that you went a little overboard with your April Fools' joke, but so does everyone else on that day. Fake news stories abound. The way TNS has reacted, you would think you were Orson Welles spreading mass hysteria about Martians landing in New Jersey.

There are way too many important issues facing naturism today, and wasting valuable time and energy flailing at windmills is not only foolish, it's self-destructive.

Airing out dirty laundry on the Internet and in N magazine is amateurish and petty. A slap on the wrist would have been sufficient. Taking out their frustration on you because they failed to recognize an April Fool's joke is pretty pathetic.

Brian said...

I never did see the original post, and don't have anything new to add - I agree with this post 100%. I just want to voice my support for your side of this issue.

John Purbrick said...

Agreed, I think it was a mistake for anyone to have resurrected an unfortunate incident. Bob Morton was a standout for his tolerant attitude, and having met Bob a few times at Naturist Society events, it's what I'd expect from him; but some other responses struck me as quite cruel, and apparently it's not over. Plenty of us have made foolish attempts at jokes in the past, and when something like that happens, I'm certain that the best thing is to say the least amount possible and then move on, and hopefully not see any repeats in the future. Sometimes it's necessary to tell a friend that we think they've done something wrong, but afterward, let's make it clear that we truly are friends.

Naturism has some serious ideas behind it, but it's also meant to be fun. Seeing a bunch of naturists recriminating at an an individual for having the wrong kind of fun, isn't fun at all.

Anonymous said...

Really, Doug, I wish you could just let it all out, tell us how you feel...

Just kidding. But seriously, you should feel good that you're a big enough fish in this pond as to make such a big ripple!

As someone who is constantly being misunderstood, I feel for you. I suppose we were lucky not to have the State Department down on us when we announced that Poland invaded Germany! ( Some folks just don't have a sense of humor.

By the way, Angie & I went to your beach on the first and had a blast!

Steven said...

I have been a little more than a month behind in my reading, and did not see the piece. Sorry there were repercussions. I enjoy your writing. Having been unemployed for some time, I am not presently a TNS member, so have not seen the magazine. It does seem quite odd that no one called seeking input on their piece prior to spending any time on it.

Best wishes.

Hank said...

Doug's credibility and integrity are intact.

I read the original hoax and laughed a lot but I'm just a naked peasant. Why didn't TNS report on those who enjoyed the joke?